Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder

Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day are behind us now. Hopefully, you had the opportunity to help shine a light on the topic and will continue to do so moving forward. A couple of weeks ago, we shared that COVID-19 is affecting people’s mental well-being; we must keep spreading the message that it’s vital to address mental illness.

More people than ever before may require treatment for mental illness and behavioral health disorders like addiction. Accessing evidence-based treatment is crucial, and a more significant investment in such services will ensure that more people will get the help they need.

The pandemic has many countries’ health care systems up against the ropes. The World Health Organization (WHO) shared a survey regarding countries’ abilities to provide treatment services for substance use disorders and mental health. WHO found that 57 percent of countries saw disruptions to counseling and psychotherapy because of the pandemic.

COVID-19 is disrupting mental health services in most countries. The survey was conducted between June and August 2020 and involved 130 countries. It evaluated how the provision of mental, neurological, and substance use disorder services has changed because of the pandemic. The notable findings include:

“We estimate, and preliminary information is telling us, that there may be an increase in people with mental, neurological and substance abuse related conditions that will need attention,” said Devora Kestel, Director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use.

From Mental Health to Opioid Abuse

As people continue to struggle with mental health amid a pandemic, there are indications that more people are resorting to drugs to cope. Given the findings of the WHO survey, an uptick in substance abuse isn’t good news.

A new study appearing in Population Health Management shows an increase in fentanyl, heroin, and non-prescribed opioids misuse. What’s more, the rise in opioid abuse could be the direct result of the pandemic.

Researchers at Quest Diagnostics analyzed lab testing positivity rates for January 1, 2019-March 14, 2020 and March 15-May 16, 2020. They looked at more than 872,000 de-identified lab results. Between January and May, the drug positivity rate increased:

The increase in non-prescribed fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine – is most concerning. Moreover, the researchers saw a significant surge in lab test results containing fentanyl and other addictive substances. Positivity for non-prescribed fentanyl increased substantially among results that also tested positive for amphetamines (by 89%), benzodiazepines (48%), cocaine (34%), and opiates (39%).

The admixture of fentanyl and benzodiazepines or other opioids creates a synergistic effect, significantly increasing the risk of overdose. Many people misusing opioids like heroin have no idea that they are using fentanyl at the time of an overdose.

“Our Health Trends data demonstrate the consequences of the pandemic, with dramatic increases of misuse of nonprescribed drugs at a time when fentanyl is also on the rise. Our nation is grappling with a drug epidemic inside a pandemic. Patients and providers need increased access to support services, clinical care and drug testing to stop drug misuse from claiming more lives,” said co-author Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., Senior Medical Director, Head of Health Trends Research Program, Quest Diagnostics.

Orange County Addiction Treatment

As an essential service, Pacific Shores Recovery continues to provide evidence-based treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Our team is following CDC guidelines for COVID-19 to safeguard the safety of our clients. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs and services.